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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Farewell My Friends

My beloved Family and Friends-
The time has come that I am to be set apart as a Missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I'm really surprised that the time has gone so quickly! While I was waiting for my call, everyone was telling me that the wait to receive that small white envelope was nothing, and that the wait to actually report was sooooo hard!! But in my experience, these past 4 months have been the fastest 4 months I have ever gone through!!
Before I leave, I want to let all my friends and family know just how much I love them and will miss them. They have been instrumental in my Spiritual growth and development, and I thank them sooooo much for all of the support they have given me in my decision to serve a mission.
Thank you Mom and Dad, for all of your support and advice, and for being such righteous parents! You have taught me so much in my life, and I love you more than I can say!
I thank my beautiful brother and sisters; Austin, McKenzie, Savannah, and Shaylee. You are all an inspiration to me, and I am grateful for this opportunity to be an example for you, just as you have all been for me. I hope that you will always remember to put God first, and continue to be examples to those around you.
I am thankful for my extended family, including all of my friends. As I have watched you go on missions, and hear stories from them, I have seen the importance of the Gospel in your lives and your desire to help others by bringing and teaching them of Christ. I love my family and friends, and I hope to be as strong as you are in your testimonies.
I would especially like to thank my darling cousin Rebecca for listening to all my thoughts and feelings on the matter, and who counseled me on her own impressions. I will be forever grateful for her helping me realize what a great opportunity this is for me to serve a mission.

Shortly after I went to school at BYU-Idaho, my family moved across the country, and after submitting my missionary application, I realized that I would have to give my farewell talk in a ward that I did not know! But that's okay!! I think this is pretty good prep for Denmark, don't you?? But because of the move, so many of my friends and family (haha, honestly, all of my friends and extended family) were unable to make it to my talk, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to post them here for those who would like to read them :) So, here are both of my Farewell talks <3

Always remember that I love every single one of you :) 
Jeg elsker jer!!! 

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I have been asked to speak on Prayer, and how it gives us Guidance and Strength in our lives. Upon receiving this topic assignment, I immediately began thinking about all the times in my life where Prayer has been absolutely central. Of course, Prayer is always important, but it hasn't been until recent years that I have made an active effort in applying proper Prayer to my life. I want to talk about a few instances in the past few years where a moment of earnest prayer has affected my life, and amazingly enough, each of these occasions have led me to this very moment in my life as I am about to devote 18 months of my life solely to The Lord. Through my personal experiences on the topic, I hope to have the Spirit with me as I testify of the things I know and Love.
                I mentioned the phrase “proper Prayer” earlier. By this, I mean actively praying, instead of mindlessly asking for things, which I’m sure we’ve all caught ourselves doing at some point in our lives. Actively praying requires 7 principle ingredients, the first being Making your Prayer Meaningful, followed by Using language that shows love, respect, reverence, and closeness, Always giving thanks to our Heavenly Father, Remembering the needs of others, Doing all you can to follow through with your prayer, Seeking guidance of the Holy Spirit to know what to include in your prayer, and seeking Heavenly Father’s guidance and strength in all you do. Each of these things help us to give our Father sincere prayers, and shows respect for the gift of prayer that we have been given.
                After thinking to myself what is needed for Sincere Prayer, I began to ask myself what the result of putting in the extra effort really is. I found that when we sincerely pray, we are required to have a level of humility that allows us to be taught. We are also able to reflect on our blessings, which allows us to recognize just how much our Heavenly Father loves us and has done for us.
                When we sincerely pray, we must also remember to be receptive to the communications to the Spirit, in which we receive the answers to our prayers, along with the Guidance and Strength we have been promised. Alma counseled his son Helaman that he should “Cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yeah, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:36-37; see also Alma 34:17-26). President Spencer W Kimball explained that it is “Through honest and heartfelt prayer [that] we receive love, power, and strength from our Heavenly Father.”
                The first instance I remember prayer causing a turning point in my life was back when I was still in middle school. It was nearing General Conference weekend, and in my Young Women’s class, we had discussed the importance of pondering questions to bring to General Conference. I was in the stage of my life where I was working on recognizing my own testimony, instead of relying on the testimony of those around me. I found that all I could think of as I was preparing to listen to the Lord’s servants was the need I had of gaining my own testimony, but I was stuck on where to begin. I prayed earnestly to our Father in Heaven that I would be able to know how to strengthen my testimony, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but the act of praying was instrumental in helping to develop the testimony that I already had. But all I could focus on was the amazement I felt as I listened to the talks throughout conference, because it seemed to me as if every single talk touched on the topic of testimonies. I learned that Personal, Private Prayer is an essential part of my Spiritual development.
                The second occasion of prayer affecting me was during High school, and while my testimony had grown much more over the years, I was caught in a rut growth-wise. I was going to church, attending my meetings, and reading my scriptures, but somehow and for some reason, my personal prayer had been lacking for some time. I was close to graduating and on my way to an audition for a musical scholarship. I had worked hard on the piece I was performing, but I was still incredibly nervous. I took to my cell phone and began texting a good friend of mine, who is now on his own mission. Somehow he noticed through my texting that I wasn’t feeling the greatest, and when I confessed that I was nervous, he texted very bluntly “Well, have you prayed?”                            
                It had taken me by surprise. Here I was, a senior with a stellar history of going to seminary and church and having, what I thought, a strong testimony, but in this instance, I was humbled. I realized that I was stuck, and that it had been ages that I had sincerely prayed. I was also embarrassed that I hadn’t thought to pray. Right then and there, all of a sudden, I had a constant prayer in my heart, and though I didn’t receive the scholarship, I was rewarded in an even better way. I was reminded of the importance of sincere, heartfelt prayer, and have since strived to make sure my prayers stay active and sincere. I was received further spiritual strength.
                Because of this strength I have received over the years, I have been able to grow spiritually. Already 2 years ago, at the age of 17, I once again found myself thinking a lot about a certain topic right before General Conference. This time, my thoughts were turned to the Temple. As Conference came closer and closer, I began feeling a special tug in my heart as I remembered the experience I had had many years ago. I prayed to my Heavenly Father, and I told Him of my intense desire to go to the Temple and to learn within its sacred walls. I recognized that at the time, my major opportunities to go to the Temple and receive my Endowment would be under two separate circumstances, the first being as I was about to be married, and the second being if I went on a mission. At 17 ½ years old, both of these events were so far away. While in prayer, I told my Father in Heaven that I would do all that was required of me to enable me to attend the Temple as soon as possible. Whatever came first, mission or marriage, I would work towards that goal and be temple ready. At the end of that prayer, I didn’t realize just how close that opportunity to attend the temple would be. Not long after, during the October 2012 Conference, the Missionary Age Change was put in place, and Sister Missionaries could now serve at the age of 19. The very first thought that came into my mind when I heard of the age change was that I could now go to the temple much sooner than I had previously though. The concept of serving a mission was now everywhere around me, as I witnessed good friends leave on missions earlier than previously able. Everywhere I looked and turned, there was a prompting to go on a mission, but it wasn’t until almost a year later that I recognized these promptings.
                My prayers had been guiding me on this path, and I recognized my need to seriously consider it. I remembered the prayer I had so earnestly given, and realized that this was my opportunity to attend the temple, as I had so desired. However, I also recognized that I needed much more preparation and consideration if I were to commit myself to something as challenging and demanding as a mission. I consulted with my family, and decided that I would go on a mission. I let our Heavenly Father know my decision, and I felt good about it. I felt peace that I was guided towards this great opportunity.
                Not long after I decided to serve a mission, I went to college, and I was blessed to spiritually flourish. Attending BYU-Idaho was like nothing I had ever experienced. I was surrounded by such a great Spirit, and while I was in such a beautifully uplifting place, I was also challenged and tested spiritually. There was an occasion where something had happened back at home, and one of my family members was emitted to the hospital. Being so far away, I wished with all my heart that I could help this beloved member of my family, and I even wished to experience the same thing as to be better qualified to comfort and support them. However, it was not my burden to bear. I came once again to my Father, this time seeking comfort not only for those I love, but also for myself. In inspiration, I realized that the unique experiences I go through have shaped me into the exact person I am, and that I am good enough to comfort, heal, and help those around me. This is something I will be forever grateful for as I serve my mission, and throughout my life. Through prayer, I was able to be guided and taught, and strengthened in ways that I truly believe would not have happened in any other time or place. I have been truly prepared to serve a mission, even though I was still so far away from being able to serve.           
                Eventually, the time came for me to wholly devote myself to serving The Lord through a full time mission. Prior to this point in my life, I myself had recognized the opportunity, but I had not committed myself. I believe this is the reason why The Lord has tested me for the past half year. I was faced with 2 wonderful choices that were righteous and uplifting, but I had to prove my trust in The Lord. I was once again brought to great sincere prayer, and this time, I was guided and strengthened to be taught a valuable lesson. I had to make a choice, and be strong and firm and prove my resolve to devote myself to The Lord. The Lord has given us our agency, and while I trust in the path I have been guided to, I recognize that the Lord will not make my life choices for me. I have moved forward in faith, and I have constantly been brought to heartfelt prayer to receive comfort and strength in my decision to continue to serve a mission.

                 I know that I have made the right choice for myself, and that I will be blessed for it, but I have also come to look forward to blessing others through my choice. I know that as I continue to pray in faith not only for myself, but for those I can influence, I can be an instrument in the hands of our Loving Heavenly Father to teach and bring more of His beloved children to the Light and Knowledge of our Savior and His Atoning Sacrifice. I have prayed to receive guidance and strength, and thank the Lord that I have been given these great opportunities to grow and become closer to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I love this gospel, and I am so thankful for the faith of my parents. They have taught me so much about the need to love one another and to help strengthen those around us. I am eternally grateful for my opportunity to serve the people of Denmark surrounding areas in the Danish Mission, and I know that I have been given a divine call. I know the gospel is true. I know it. I live it. I love it. I say these things, in the name of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ,  Amen.

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I have been asked to speak on the topic of Sacrifice, and as odd as it may sound, I was actually very excited to learn more about and speak on this subject. It has been something that has been on my mind for at least the past month and a half as I have come to more fully understand my role not only as a soon-to-be missionary, but even just as a Latter-day Saint. And, perhaps, maybe not only as a Latter-day Saint, but as a living, breathing member of humanity on this earth. We are all faced with challenges every day, and we all deal with those challenges in our own unique ways. However, as I have prepared this talk, I have come to realize that there is a great divide in the world defining sacrifice.  I found two definitions that I believe adequately illustrate this divide. One definition the world uses define Sacrifice is “A loss incurred in selling something below its value.” This places Sacrifice in a negative, heartless manner, in my opinion. However, when we turn our minds inward and focus on the spiritual aspect of Sacrifice, as opposed to the temporal, we find that Sacrifice is defined as “To give up something valuable or precious, often with the intent of accomplishing a greater purpose or goal.” This definition shows faith and trust in the act of willingly giving something that you love.
                Sacrifice has been present from the beginning of Man. In 2 Nephi 2:25, we read that “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” Adam and Eve recognized that without the Fall of Man, Man could not be. Without partaking of the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, our first parents would have remained in the Garden of Eden, in a state of childlike innocence. Adam and Eve sacrificed the comfort and protection of the Garden in order to allow us all to come to earth. They recognized the greater purpose and goal, and willingly gave. But because of the fall of man, we needed to be saved through the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ.
                We have all learned that Sacrifice has always been a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a reminder of the great atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for all who have lived or will live on earth. Before the ministry of Christ, animal sacrifices were offered for this purpose. This practice helped them to look forward in faith towards the Atonement. After the Atonement of Christ, followers of Jesus Christ—by His direction—began to offer instead a “broken heart and contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20), a willingness to repent of sins and a desire to follow Jesus Christ and align one's life with His commandments. In the Church today, the ordinance of the Sacrament is a reminder of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.
                As I have lived my life in accordance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have noticed some of the sacrifices we make as faithful Latter-day Saints. We follow the Word of Wisdom, and strive to dress and behave modestly. We follow the Law of Chastity, and pay one tenth of our earnings in tithes. We live in a manner that is different to the world, something that can be very difficult to do, but we believe- and I believe- it to be a life rich in the prospect of eternal, and sometimes temporal, blessings. Without the requirement of sacrifice, we would never be able to develop the faith necessary for eternal salvation.
                Missions are hard things. They require time, talent, and energy. I have been called to serve in the Denmark Copenhagen mission, and while it is exciting, I recognize that it will also be very challenging. I am required to learn another language that I have had no previous background in, and I will be placed into a culture and lifestyle that I am not already used to. However, though I know that it will be difficult, I know that I will be blessed, and that I can bless the lives of those around me. In fact, I have already noticed blessings while I am still in my pre-mission phase!! I have had the opportunity to devote time to study and preparation, and I am blessed to be called to the homeland of my ancestors! I have had an increased interest and desire to learn about my Danish ancestors, and I have felt closer than ever to that part of me as I have begun my study of the Danish culture and Language. But while a mission is exciting, I still feel the struggle, as it is most definitely the biggest sacrifice I have ever made. In order to serve a mission, I have been required to give up something wonderful that I have always wanted, ever since I was a small child. However, though the past few months have been hard, I know without a doubt that if I put my trust in the Lord and do the thing which He requires of me, I will be able to “accomplish the thing which He commandeth” (1 Nephi 3:7).
                The scriptures tell us to always remember the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors, that we may learn from them and grow closer to them. When I think back on the sacrifices of my ancestors, one in particular stands out in my mind. My great-great Grandma Dagmar Johansen Soelberg gave up everything, including contact with her family, to join the church. After emigrating from Denmark to the United States, she never saw her family in person again, but was able to complete their temple work years later. She is a great example to me of remaining faithful through sacrifice, and I appreciate all she did to enable me to have the Gospel in my life.

                I love this Gospel, and I am ready to give my life to the Lord, that I may be an instrument in His hands to teach His beloved children in the Danish Mission of his Atoning Sacrifice. I know that as I strive to be the best missionary I can be, and as I follow the commandments and missionary guidelines with strict obedience, I will be a worthy vessel and representative of the Lord Himself. I know that the sacrifices we make in this life are for our own good and benefit, and that because of the Lord's great Atoning Sacrifice, the greatest gift to the world, I am given a most precious gift, even eternal life with my beloved family.  I am forever grateful for all the sacrifices made so that I may be in my family in this period of time, to have the experiences and knowledge I have been given, that I am in a position to help others. I know that the Gospel is true, and that God loves every one of His children. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

-Søster Morgan Soelberg